here’s looking at you, kid

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One thing I note about painting flowers, they don’t watch you — or even seem to.  But when you draw faces — faces that look in your direction — well, it’s like having company.

But I like drawing faces and I think I shall do more of it.

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yesterday’s prep for today’s class

Went better.

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I began making some small oil pastels for practice, using photographic sources. I make them late at night and “some times the magic works and sometimes it doesn’t” as said the old Indian in an old movie I saw ages ago.

I also began making a copy of the head of a painting that I only learned about yesterday via Twitter. Wonderful thing about the internet is that you discover bits of art history that you never knew.  The painting is by Albert Herter.  What I post here will be just a detail from his painting. My oil pastel copy in the works appears immediately below, and his original below that.

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PS – in the “learn something new everyday category,” while I was looking for a link to Herter’s painting, having just learned about him yesterday, I misspelled his name. Well, it turns out that there’s an Albert Hertel who was a painter also.  You can learn about him here.

life class today

 

Very challenging pose

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and I don’t like the drawing.  The model was fantastic.  I would have loved to do a straightforward portrait. I definitely wasn’t looking for a reclining pose, and the unaccustomed view was difficult to manage. However I was glad to get a version of the face that seems to have its parts in almost the right places. I found myself wishing I was painting for the sake of color and for paints greater ease of making corrections.

Before doing the life size version on the dark grey paper, I made a smaller color version on 9 x 12 Strathmore paper.  I like it a lot better though its more caricatured. It seems sweet somehow.

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I made several small fast drawings in the notebook at various junctures during the session, which I like better even though they are very spare and exaggerated.

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They all appear at this blog as though they’re nearly the same size as the oil pastel, but the lines tell you that this is writing paper so you can judge that these are small images. It’s kind of fun to see them enlarged so that they compete with the oil pastel above which is approximately life size.

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When I draw this way I am just thinking to myself. It’s a way of putting things where I think they belong, and with each subsequent drawing I strive to correct errors of prior attempts. And yet I’m not focused on error, just drawing and putting lines down.

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I’m going to be teaching soon, beginning in July. I could have left these in the file but I include them because I am so often preaching about making mistakes and taking chances. I shouldn’t be lecturing anyone about mistakes if I’m not willing to make some very publically myself. Or — it’s not even that these are mistakes. They are drawings that are not particularly refined. They each have helpful information in them (helpful to me anyhow).

Sometimes artists will find a method that is pretty reliable that they can use in demos. When I teach I plan to avoid the prepackaged technique, and I’m hoping that the students will appreciate my high wire act. By taking chances I could, after all, fall on my fanny. And that would be awkward.

But if I do fall, I’ll dust myself off and continue drawing.

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Representing the eyes as slits was especially delightful. I strove to pare things down to big essential shapes.

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I turned this one around because I like it better from this angle. That’s another thing about making these sketches: they give me ideas. Here it’s not a reclining person, it’s a face of someone upright.

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A pose like this one is difficult to draw and to get true. The positions of the features are confusing when seen at this angle. We’re used to seeing people upright. Also the effect of gravity changes the features and a really good drawing will capture that change. The movement of the face is toward the floor so the lower cheek will be drooping a little, even in a young model with very plastic features.

I rely on perception and I throw the line like you’d throw a baseball. Aim, throw. If you don’t take chances then a certain versatility never has a chance to occur. Sometimes you get one shot at something, and to do it the way you experience it may take bravado. But if we always demure and follow a safe route we never learn how to seize the moment, never prepare emotionally for the bold gesture.

If a befuddled robin happens to land on a limb in front of you while you’re drawing, you haven’t time to say to yourself “this is an oval, here’s another oval.”  You better just start drawing — fast — before the bird realizes his mistake.

If I needed this pose for a painting, I’d hire a model and do several versions until I got it right. But in life class you do the day’s pose and then move on. You never know what you’ll get and you just try to be adaptable!

For my ego’s sake, I want to post a similar drawing I did that worked out.  I drew it from a photo, but I still think it has some bragging rights.

reclining child

Similar idea except that this time it succeeded!

 

More drawings of faces

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It helps me get ready for the life class. I like scribbling and trying to create the face evocatively, pulling it out of the darks. I love making the dark areas using hatching lines. I love the deep blue of the bic cristal pen’s ink and the way that you can smudge it subtly with a paper towel.

Then there’s oil pastel. Drawing with oil pastel helps me even more directly, helps me think about how I’ll use color in the life class.  Copying the Victorian photos using fauvist colors provides practice thinking about color as a form of invention. And it’s nearer to what I  do in the life class where I’m using dry pastel as my tool. The pen drawing above and the oil pastels below are more inventions based on Julia Margaret Cameron’s Pre-Raphaelite photographs.

 

101_8652 (3)These oil pastels are small drawings, on Canson mi-teinte pages measuring 9 x 12 inches.

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Amusement, whimsy & lines

Drew some faces rapidly with a pen for amusement

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and practice.

I made several versions of an image based on a photograph by Julia Margaret Cameron, the Victorian era photographer. (Above and below)  Each one is different, but all are based on the same photo.

Other faces come from other historical photos that I’ve found on the internet.

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They decorate a journal that I keep. They entertain me while I’m relaxing, watching tv, in my idle moments. And they are very freedom inspiring. You can’t undo a pen line (though I did use oil pastel to soften some passages) so I am swashbuckling in my use of the pen. It’s a wonderfully expressive tool. Built for exaggeration and impulse.

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I like to be often scribbling. I love the appearance of even just the ink on the paper. Pen ink is such a beautiful thing.

When I was a child learning cursive, I loved the shapes of letters and the shiny beauty of ink. That love has stayed with me across the many years.

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A gestural line, dense hatchings: I find them endlessly fascinating. The energy of cross-hatching can be exhilarating and yet also relaxing because it is both dynamic and repetitive.

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Girls’ Nite Out

After Renoir it’s hard to find more beauty and spontaneity in a female face.  I made drawings after various famous guys, as well as a few of my own, and decided to assemble some of these gals together in one place.  Pencil or pen, detailed or spare, there’s a million ways to shape a face.

after Bonnard

the kid’s doll with attitude

after Ingres

me, myself and I

the kid

imaginary me

sultry exercise face from a drawing book

and (after) Ingre’s bright eyed gal….

Getting back to work

We got back from our trip, and now I’m faced with the prospect of steadily working again.  How quickly time flies!

Casting about for a subject as I stumble back into the realms of line, I found my daughter’s doll peeking from behind furniture.  I have been known to borrow my daughter’s camera now that her supermacro out wow’s mine tenfold.  So, forgive me for indulging the temptation to peer into the details of my pen lines.  I am not narcissistic, I just love close-up optics. 

(I’m never going to be narcissistic — I vow never to be anything that I need a dictionary to know how to spell.)

This is a doll with an attitude.

Yesterday’s drawing a day — a face

This is as far as I got with drawing yesterday.  I’m pooped!  (How about you?)  I began copying an Annibale Carracci drawing from a book, but I wasn’t able to finish.  I post my fragment drawing post-facto because though I may draw everyday, I cannot post everyday.  Nevertheless, I kept my resolution, and then the eyelids fluttered, and I said “to sleep perchance to dream” and after that all I said was “Zzzzzzzzzzz.”

Here’s wishing you a restful Saturday, or whatever day/time it is wherever you are….

Faces for drawing a day

I based this drawing on one from a “how to draw” book, changing it enough (I hope) that perhaps even the original artist would not recognize it.  My aim was to get back into the habit of drawing faces, also to do them quickly, and to use whatever means are lying around.  Perhaps I’ll get back into the habit of asking people to let me draw them — and overcome my shyness!  perhaps we can create an “a-day” motivator for that too!  — un-shy-thing-a-day that I did today — any takers?  Any reticient types out there ready to join me?

My thinking is that the more I’m able to compose a face quickly, perhaps I won’t even have to ask people.  Maybe I’ll just transform into a camera.   The second virtue in using other artists’ drawings and transforming them is that you gain experience in innovation.  You are using a thing, but changing the thing too.  And the use doesn’t really quite count (as innovation) unless you change it a lot.  And yet it doesn’t count as “copying” unless it’s reasonably faithful to the original.  (Jazz musicians will understand what I mean.)

Was also thinking I might find a husband for Renoir’s sweet looking young woman.  But neither of these will do.  One’s too old, the other’s way too serious.

Learning to Draw

Most books that teach drawing have demonstrations that look something like the sketch above (taken from this source).  They begin with an oval-ish shape, horizontal and vertical axes, short smudge lines placed in strategic positions to represent nose, eyes and mouth, and so on.

They begin with the idea of a whole face, a regular or typical face, a norm.  They specify very simple directions that promise to be easy enough for anybody to learn. 

They are okay, as far as they go.  I wonder when I see them: are people really this afraid of making mistakes?  It’s just a drawing. 

If you want to draw, but are afraid to draw, try rules like these to get past your qualms and your reluctance.  But that said, the recipe for faces is a very inadequate approach to drawing.  Really, to be truthful, it’s an awful approach.  It is completely reliant upon very limited, conventional ideas of what a face should look like.  It holds no hope for anyone who wants to explore his or her own sensations of seeing.

If you want to draw, your first challenge is just picking up a pencil and beginning.  But if you are brave from the beginning, you will reap benefits later on.  Forget ovals and proportions.  Imagine instead that the object of your attention has lines wrapped around it.  Imagine placing your pencil upon one of those lines and copying it upon a sheet of paper.  Do not even care (in the beginning) overly much whether your lines match these lines in nature.  Just try (very hard) for the nearest match you can get.

If your lines cannot match at first the spectacle of what you see, at least have them be your lines.  What you saw, what you felt, not the recipe for conventionally considered faces.